The Challenges Confronting Boys

Mr Andrew Hawkins, Headmaster

We are a community that goes well beyond students. We as adults, teachers, and parents, need to develop our skill set for the informal curriculum that happens in our hallways, sporting fields, boarding houses, and our homes. We endeavor to encourage responsible citizenship, which is simply doing the right thing and having the courage to step up and step in.

We need to reward this positive behaviour and value it as a school and in our homes. Being a good citizen is our greatest priority here at TSS. Sexuality, consent, identity, and gender do not just occur with the onset of puberty and adolescence. Education in this space is recommended to begin in Preschool providing the education is age-appropriate. We have worked hard as a school to create a curriculum from P-12 that educates the boys in the area of consent and healthy relationships that is age appropriate.

Excerpts of a study we took part in as a member of the International Boys School Coalition have some interesting findings below. With the holidays fast approaching I thought it was appropriate timing to remind our community about the topic of consent and healthy relationships and how important the informal curriculum can be at home, especially over the holiday period.

Consent

This section of the study queried knowledge of the components of consent and the ability to identify the presence of consent.

With respect to the academic literature, there is little to no research on primary or secondary school students’ knowledge about consent, however, studies of university students indicate that between 30% and 50% of males endorse rape myths (e.g., Peter & Stewa1i, 2019). Consistent with these findings, this study found that 33% of grade/year 8-12 respondents endorsed the questions related to rape myths. Further, when given scenarios with and without alcohol respondents were less able to identify consent when alcohol was present. In contrast, grade/year 6-7 respondents were better able to identify a component of consent when provided with a scenario than when they were asked about specific consent activities without a context.

Furthermore, less than 10% of respondents were able to identify all three components of consent when given a list with almost half (43.4%) unable to correctly identify any component of consent. These results suggest that the younger respondents may be able to identify the presence or absence of consent in a given scenario, but they may not be able to decode the scenario to explain their answer.

Parting from the literature, this study identified that, with respect to knowledge about the components of consent grade/year 10-12 students were more likely to answer the questions correctly (43%) than grade/year 8-9 students (27.4%). However, while, the respondents recognise the necessity of consent, they feel they have more responsibility to get consent than girls and that getting consent is awkward, formal, and, as such, was viewed in a negative light. Additionally, the findings suggest that students endorse negative attitudes toward obtaining consent for sexual activities and hold the view that consent is a unidirectional process of getting a ‘yes’ rather than negotiation and agreement between two people.

However, this finding is nuanced when analysing by sexual orientation and religious affiliations. That is, GBQ respondents were more knowledgeable about consent and had more positive attitudes toward getting consent than respondents who identified as heterosexual. As well, religious affiliation had an influence on knowledge about consent. That is, those students who identified with no religious affiliation were more knowledgeable about consent than those who identified as Christian. However, religious affiliation did not result in positive attitudes toward consent.

Healthy Relationships

 The topics of the study covered in this section were, boundaries, characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and conflict resolution.

According to the WHO (2016), adolescents are generally not fully capable and prepared to face challenges posed in dating relationships. As well, research suggests that given that relationship violence is commonly experienced by adolescents (Mahony, 2010), there is a need among youth for education about healthy relationships (Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, 2017). The results of this study support the notion that education about healthy relationships for adolescents is essential. That is, grade/year 10-12 respondents were more able to identify characteristics of healthy relationships (41%-44%) than grade/ year 8-9 respondents (29%). In addition, grade/year 6-7 respondents were somewhat able to identify healthy relationship boundaries but only approximately one-quarter of respondents (28.4%) were able to answer all three questions about relationship boundaries correctly. Furthermore, only 9.6% of grade/year 6-7 respondents correctly answered the question about effective conflict resolution. However, given the limited knowledge respondents have about healthy relationships, it is encouraging that 42.5% of respondents indicated that they would talk to their parent/guardian if they were concerned about a relationship.

Further, examination of the literature indicates that there is a paucity of published research in the last decade that assessed students’ knowledge about healthy relationships. Thus, this study provides new information about how students understand dating relationships. That is, the respondents exhibited difficulty recognising characteristics of unhealthy relationships, and were unclear about appropriate boundaries, and may be ill-informed about ways to resolve conflict in dating relationships.

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